Salmonella has been isolated from dried pistachios in both postharvest and retail surveys. The source of Salmonella in pistachios is unknown, but introduction is possible at points during production, harvest, and postharvest activities. To examine the behavior of Salmonella on pistachios during simulated postharvest conditions, early-, mid-, and late-season inhull pistachios were collected from two commercial processors over five different harvests. Pistachios were inoculated with cocktails of nalidixic acid– or rifampin-resistant Salmonella at 0.64 to 1.59 log CFU/g (low) or 2.73 to 3.27 or 4.29 to 4.31 log CFU/g (high) and were incubated for up to 30 h under commercially relevant conditions (23, 35, or 37°C and 50 or 90% relative humidity [RH]). Populations of Salmonella were measured by plating onto tryptic soy agar and CHROMagar Salmonella with added nalidixic acid or rifampin. Individual growth curves at the same temperature and RH differed significantly among different lots of pistachios. Except for a single late-season lot in which no significant growth was observed, Salmonella multiplied under all storage conditions. In the first 3 h after inoculation, insignificant (most cases) to small (0.41 to 0.67 log CFU/g) but significant (P < 0.05) mean increases in Salmonella populations were measured; the mean predicted time to achieve maximum populations (5 to 8 log CFU/g) was 16 ± 4 h. In paired samples, longer lag phases, lower growth rates, and lower maximum increases were observed with inoculated inhull pistachios incubated at 23°C and 50% RH compared with 35 or 37°C and 90% RH. Similar growth curves were observed at the low and high inoculum levels; throughout the 30 h of incubation, Salmonella populations were consistently ∼1 to 2 log CFU/g lower on pistachios inoculated at the low inoculum level. Managing the time between harvesting and hulling will reduce the potential for growth of Salmonella on pistachios during postharvest handling.
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